I got the rare opportunity to drive a pre-production version of the Hyundai NEXO fuel cell car, which supersedes the ix35. Their investment shows Hyundai’s commitment to alternative fuels.
What is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car?
In short, fuel cell cars like the Hyundai NEXO combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which can then be used to power an electric motor.
A fuel cell car runs like an EV but has the advantage of being able to refuel in a similar time to a combustion engine.
Using hydrogen gas to create electricity produces only water and heat. This is more environmentally friendly than a combustion engine as there are no exhaust emissions.
What Is It Like To Drive the Hyundai NEXO?
I had only a short amount of time to test the Hyundai NEXO. As futuristic as the car looks, it is not that different from driving any other similarly sized vehicle.
In fact, if you weren’t told that it was a fuel cell car, you would just assume it is an EV. The Hyundai NEXO moves quietly, it doesn’t turn over like a combustion engine. You just hit the start button and the dashboard lights up. Then you put it in drive and you’re good to go. It will set off in silence and keep going for around 300-400 miles depending on how you drive it.
The cockpit has been specifically designed to feel more futuristic than an ordinary combustion engine. Buyers of a fuel cell car want to be reminded that they are driving something a bit different.
The Hyundai NEXO accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in 9.5 seconds. It doesn’t feel heavy and moves swiftly off the mark. No tailpipe emissions are created as you drive and the astonishing thing about a fuel cell car is that it purifies the air as it drives!
So just by looking at the car, it’s clear that it’s not your typical Hyundai. The owners of a fuel cell car want it to look special and the NEXO is Hyundai’s response to that.
That said, the model doesn’t look too crazy either. I think they have struck a great balance between technology and practicality.
The Hyundai NEXO is very aerodynamic, which enhances the airflow and reduces resistance. This is done for practical reasons to improve the maximum range of the car.
The model includes lots of micro design elements to reduce drag. The door handles sink into the bodywork once your inside, the wipers are hidden under the bonnet line, the windscreen angle has been carefully pitched and the front bumper has been specially designed to provide optimal airflow.
Looking at the side of the car, the effective yet attractive alloy wheels will catch your eye. They look completely different from standard Hyundai models but are still optimised to lower air resistance.
How Do You Fill It Up?
The Hyundai NEXO has three hydrogen gas tanks placed in the body of the car. They are intensively tested so they can withstand massive amounts of pressure in order to store the hydrogen safely.
Refuelling the car is a similar process to a combustion engine. You just open the fuel cap but rather than inserting a nozzle, you attach a gas hose. Refilling the gas can be completed in less than five minutes.
The current limitation for fuel cell cars is the number of refuelling stations that stock hydrogen gas. Looking at Zap Map they show around ten UK locations where you can fill up at the moment. Of course, manufacturers will need to build and sell the car before the infrastructure catches up.
How Far Will It Go?
The Hyundai NEXO has the longest hydrogen-powered capacity currently available. The South Korean motoring company says it has an estimated driving range of up to 414 miles, depending on how you drive it. However, that compares favourably with a combustion engine.
The Hyundai NEXO is ahead of its time and that is all down to Hyundai’s pioneering spirit.
They have created an incredible vehicle that is production-ready and is available for everyday use, if you know where to fill it up. Over time we will see more fuel cell cars being developed, more refuelling stations and greater awareness of the incredible technology underneath the chassis.